6 Ways to Conquer Your Cravings

Understanding the 5 types of overeaters is crucial, however, your best offense is a good defense. Learn how to avoid temptations by conquering your cravings before they take you down. The holidays are right around the corner and cookies, fruit cake, and feasts of food are in abundance. On average, adults gain 2 pounds a year during the holidays (and don't lose it). Multiply that by 25 years and that's a lot of weight that you could avoid gaining if you are a conscious eater.

Given this information, what can you do with it? You may not be severely overweight but you may have some characteristics of a certain "overeater". No matter if you are a compulsive eater or an emotional eater, controlling and conquering cravings is very important. Six tips on controlling cravings are summarized below:

1. Get moving
Research has shown that exercise can help blunt genetic obesity tendencies, improve how the brain uses sugar, reduce cravings and overcome food addiction, handle stress, helps you make better food choices, and improve brain health overall.

2. Keep blood sugar levels balanced
Low blood sugar levels are associated with lower brain activity and more cravings. Here are some tips for keeping your blood sugar levels even throughout the day:

  • Eat a nutritious breakfast every day
  • Eat cinnamon, found to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Ingest smaller meals throughout the day
  • Stay away from simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (processed/boxed foods- if it won't spoil if left out on the counter overnight, it's likely processed)

3. Decrease the use of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can  be up to 600 times sweeter than sugar and may activate the appetite centers of the brain, making you crave even more food and more sugar.

4. Manage Stress
Chronic stress has been implicated in obesity, as well as addiction, anxiety and depressive disorders, and cancer. Consider deep breathing, meditation, and hypnosis to combat stress.

5. Get adequate sleep
Science has shown that the less sleep you get, the more cravings you'll have; the more calories you eat, the more belly fat you'll have and the higher your BMI (body mass index) will be.

6. Find out about hidden food allergies
Food allergies can trigger cravings. If you have an allergy to wheat gluten or milk and you eat wheat or dairy products, the allergy can reduce blood flow to your brain and impair your judgement. Subtle but important food allergies can result in brain inflammation that contributes to poor brain health.

To identify food allergies, eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar, food additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings or colors from your diet for 1-2 months. Then, slowly reintroduce these items one at a time every 3-4 days to determine whether a new item triggers problems.When you reintroduce a food, eat it at least two or three times in a day for 3 days to see if you notice a reaction. Stop immediately if you do. Symptoms vary greatly but may include brain fog, difficulty remembering, mood issues (anxiety, depression and anger), nasal congestion, headaches, sleep problems, joint aches, muscle aches, pain, fatigue, skin changes, and changes in digestion.

Food allergy testing is also available in our office. The test results show you which foods you're severely allergic to (avoid at all costs), moderately allergic to (eat sparingly if you must), and mildly allergic to (be aware how frequently you eat these foods and limit your consumption). A mild food allergy, if not controlled or addressed, can escalate into a moderate or severe food allergy.

Hopefully this information helps you throughout this holiday season (and beyond!). Find out which "craving conqueror"  works best for you and stick with it. Consistency and routine turns conscious decisions into habits. How much easier would it be if reaching for the veggies at the next holiday party was your instinct rather than the cookies and creme puffs?

Reference: Monroe, Mary. "It's All in the Brain: Unlocking the Secrets of Overeating With Neuroscience."IDEA Fitness Journal November-December (2011): 38-46. Print.

5 Types of Overeating

Obesity is rising rapidly in the US. New research put out by Dr. Daniel Amen, has shown that there are five patterns of brain activity that may cause overeating. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans are taken of an individual's brain, which show predictable patterns of activation. The pattern of activation determines the "type" of overeater the individual may be. The five types of overeating are explained below:

Compulsive Overeater
Compulsive overeaters get stuck on one thought (such as food) and feel driven to eat. The brain scans show decreased levels of a chemical in the brain called serotonin. These people do best by increasing the serotonin levels in the brain through natural ways via exercise, for example.

Impulsive Overeater
Impulsive overeaters often have difficulty with control and are easily distracted. They often reach for food without thinking. The brain scans show decreased activity in the "control" area of the brain, which helps you decide between the banana and the banana split. High-protein and low-carb diets benefit these people. Exercise, meditation, and supplements that calm the brain help to control overeating.

Impulsive-Compulsive Overeater
Impulsive-Compulsive overeaters are compelled to eat and have little control to say "no". The brain scans show  too much activity in the "gear shifter" in the brain so people get stuck on food thoughts. Exercise increases serotonin levels and greatly benefits these types of overeaters.

Sad or Emotional Overeater
Sad or emotional overeaters eat to medicate their feelings of rejection or nervousness to calm the emotional "storms" in the brain. There is excess activity in the emotional (limbic) region in the brain on the MRI scans. Exercise benefits this type of overeater because it optimizes vitamin D levels (which make you "feel" better).  Taking fish oil supplements are also great.

Anxious Overeater
Anxious overeaters medicate their feelings of anxiety with food; they reach for food to calm their nerves. they are always waiting for something bad to happen and don't look for the positive. These people suffer from physical tension. Meditation, hypnosis and anything else that calms the mind benefits this "type" the most.

Granted, not everyone is obese, but these 5 types of overeating can be a tool to evaluate your patterns of eating. Stay posted for next week with the "6 Ways to Conquer Your Cravings"!

Reference: Monroe, Mary. "It's All in the Brain: Unlocking the Secrets of Overeating With Neuroscience."IDEA Fitness Journal November-December (2011): 38-46. Print.